If there was actually any debate about the England captaincy, it ended at Wembley Stadium last night. But make no mistake, it had nothing at all to do with Harry Kane’s last-minute winner.
Jordan Henderson and the Tottenham striker were the two candidates for the armband. There is now just one, and the other applicant has managed to play himself out of contention.
Nailing his captaincy coffin, the lethargic Liverpool man was sluggish and pedestrian as England took the road to Russia at a snail’s pace against Slovenia last night. Many now suggest his club number 14 now needs to be what he wears for his country too.
The question should be if Henderson is in England’s midfield at all, not if he is leading the team out.
There’s no doubt the former Sunderland player has improved in the past two years, but not enough to land what used to be the game’s ultimate honour.
Many argue that a captain should be in the middle of the park. It’s a fair point, but the problem with giving the 27-year-old the nod over Kane is the immunity from the drop the armband brings. Automatic selection, however much Gareth Southgate stresses it wouldn’t be the case, is a dangerous prospect.
While Kane is England’s main option up front and an undoubted starter, the thought of Henderson being guaranteed a place doesn’t sit comfortably. They say no player is beyond the bench, but your captain going into a major tournament always plays.
It’s not a case of looking for a scapegoat. Henderson spends most of the match shouting, organising and pulling others up on their mistakes. You may not see the midfielder misplace too many passes but his lack of passing ability, and being too similar to the more accomplished Eric Dier.
While to Spurs man is the defensive protection needed, he needs a player alongside him to do the rest.
So what does the Liverpool man bring to the party? Goals? Since his 2010 debut, Henderson hasn’t hit the target. Man of the match displays have peaked at two. Even with Andy Townsend picking ITV’s selection up until recently.
While he seems to have found the knack of assists for Liverpool, he plays a very small part in any of England’s goals.
His passing accuracy is be applauded, 90 per cent reach their target this season, but the problem for some is the sideways movement. The keyword is not creativity.
He wasn’t the only player to blame last night, of course. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was hooked after an hour and with very good reason. Ryan Bertrand’s inexplicable decision to return to Joe Hart on more than one occasion from attacking moves drew boos while Raheem Sterling looks a shell of the player he is for Manchester City when he pulls on the white of England.
The good news? We won. Now to find a midfield that works.